Hollis wasn’t sure why she’d agreed to let Macy set her up on a blind date, but here she was, heading down the stairs to a tiny, hole-in-the-wall bar. She checked her phone to see if she had any messages from Macy or Macy’s friend … what was the name Macy had given? Charlie?
It was quarter to seven, and the date was set for seven-thirty, but Hollis was always early. At least on this occasion, it meant she’d have time to have a glass of wine to smooth out the fluttering in her stomach.
The bar was even tinier than it had looked from the outside — a low ceiling, half a dozen bar stools, and an equal number of intimate round tables, two chairs apiece, lit by flickering tea lights in cut glass holders. The bar itself had slightly better lighting, but it was enough for Hollis to see the bartender was the only other person there.
The bartender gave Hollis a coy smile, her midnight black hair whispering across her shoulders as she leaned forward. “What’ll it be?”
Hollis glanced behind the bartender, trying to spot a bottle of wine she could order with confidence. Failing that, she searched for a hand-written menu on any of the walls near the bar. Still nothing she could work with. She shrugged. “What do you have that’s red and smooth?”
The bartender leaned an elbow on the bartop, thinking, then smiled. Hollis’s stomach flip-flopped at the smile. Maybe if this blind date didn’t pan out, she could chat up the bartender instead. “I’ve got just the thing.” The bartender ducked behind the bar and produced a dark unlabeled and unopened bottle and a stemless wine glass.
Hollis spun her seat and looked around the bar while the bartender opened the bottle. “Is it usually this quiet on a Monday night?”
“Most Mondays, yes,” the bartender said, pulling the cork free with a pop.
Hollis intended to request just a taste of this unidentified wine. But as the contents flowed from the bottle into her glass, she was entranced. The wine was vivid indigo, not the crimson she expected. In the dim light of the bar, a touch of effervescence made it look like it was glittering with stardust. “What the—?”
The bartender tilted her head and half-shrugged. “Try it.”
Hollis took a deep breath, reminding herself the bottle had been sealed. The wine’s appearance had to be a trick of the dim lighting, nothing sinister. It was the only thing that made sense.
Macy had sent her on this blind date because she thought Hollis needed to be open to more possibilities. She didn’t want to prove Macy right. She had to try the wine.
She swirled the wine in the glass and sniffed it. Aside from a faint aroma of blueberries, which weren’t out of place for a red, the wine smelled normal enough.
She took a tentative sip. The flavor exploded on her palate, but it was perfectly balanced and smooth. Giving the first sip a moment to settle, she took a second sip, marveling at how much better the wine already tasted, even without an opportunity to breathe.
The two sips had also made the bar seem brighter, giving Hollis a better look at the bartender. The woman’s eyes were the same color as the wine, indigo, dappled with stars. Hollis had never seen anything like those eyes. She was smitten.
Breathlessly, Hollis said, “I like it. Now will you tell me what it is?”
The bartender grinned, again loosing the butterflies in Hollis’s stomach. “Blind date wine.”
“Is it that obvious?” Hollis asked, her shoulders sagging.
“Only because Macy sent me a photo.”
Hollis hesitated before taking another sip, realizing what was going on. “You’re Charlie?”
The bartender nodded. “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself right away.”
“That’s alright,” Hollis said quickly. “I just didn’t realize she was sending me on a date with the bartender at the bar where we were meeting.”
“Owner,” Charlie said. “It’s quiet on Mondays because I’m normally closed. But it’s a good icebreaker for a blind date.” She grinned. “Now that we’re both on the same page, I can whip up some heavy appetizers, or we can go somewhere else for dinner. Your choice.”
Hollis took another sip of wine. Even without the wine and Charlie’s unearthly eyes, she was still intrigued. Maybe this wouldn’t be a bad date after all. “Does somewhere else have this same wine?” she asked.
Charlie shook her head. “No, that one’s pretty exclusive to my bar. At least around here.”
Hollis smiled. “Then pour yourself a glass, let me give you a hand in the kitchen, and you can tell me where this wine, and you, came from.”
Dawn Vogel’s academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-runs a small press, and tries to find time for writing. Her steampunk adventure series, Brass and Glass, is available from DefCon One Publishing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Visit her at historythatneverwas.com.